Florida State University

Florida State’s pass defense shows improvement

Even after losing two starting cornerbacks, who were both taken in the first 75 picks of the NFL Draft, Florida State’s pass defense has shown considerable improvement through the first three games of 2015.

The Seminoles rank fourth nationally in pass defense, allowing just 116.3 passing yards per game. Last year, FSU was in the lower half of the FBS rankings and allowed 226 passing yards per game.

“I think we’re playing pretty good,” FSU safety Nate Andrews said. “We still have to work, but we’re playing good. We’re veterans in the secondary.”

Despite losing a second-round pick (Ronald Darby) and a third-round pick (P.J. Williams), the Seminoles have found success in 2015 against spread teams like Texas State and South Florida along with a run-based Boston College team. FSU allowed just three passing touchdowns in the first two games and then recorded a shutout in the third game — allowing just 56 passing yards to the Eagles.

The opposition will get tougher. After a bye week, FSU (3-0, 1-0 ACC) will travel to Wake Forest on Oct. 3 and then start a challenging three-game stretch with Miami, Louisville and Georgia Tech.

“[We’re] going to have teams down the road that air it out,” safety Lamarcus Brutus said. “At the end of the day, [it’s] going to be our job to stop it. [We] have to handle it.”

FSU’s success at stopping teams through the air is in large part due to Jalen Ramsey sliding into a starting corner role — along with Marquez White emerging as the No. 2 corner. Brutus, a Port St. Lucie native, also had a key first-half interception in the win over BC.

But FSU also has improved its pass rush with six sacks through three games (after recording just 17 sacks in 14 games last year).

“We have guys that can play first and second down, and we have a whole new group of guys that come in on third down,” Andrews said. “That helps us out a lot. The DBs don’t have to cover as much or as long. We’re covering for like two seconds because they’re rushing the passer really good.”

The Noles defense struggled in 2014, giving up points early in games and putting pressure on the offense to rally in the second half. While the defense should be credited for making second-half adjustments last year, players felt like they wanted to dedicate this season to complete-game performances.

Still, the defense isn’t where they want it to be. Not yet. But they feel it’s on the right track.

“I don’t feel like we’re even close to as good as we can be,” White said. “I feel like these next nine games we’ve got a chance to show everybody what we’re capable of. I feel like we can get back to the defense of the [2013] championship team.”